Keeping Nightmare Vision for Squaw Development from Becoming Reality

Seven years ago, we got our first look at the proposed indoor waterpark for Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

In the newsclip below, the Reno Gazette-Journal called it, “a high-mountain water park on steroids.”

Management has changed; from KSL Capital Partners to Alterra Mountain Company. But the plans remain the same.

The good news is that there is still no indoor waterpark – on steroids or otherwise – in Tahoe.

Standing between Alterra’s Vegas-style vision and the destruction of our mountain values is Sierra Watch and our ongoing campaign to Keep Squaw True.

Thanks for being part of this next great chapter in the long history of Sierra conservation.

Alterra Mountain Company, Ikon Pass, Squaw Valley, Keep Squaw True

Pictured: Article by Jeff Delong, Reno Gazette-Journal


Now streaming on YouTube!

Sierra Watch: Our Mission & Role in Protecting the Sierra Nevada


Sierra Watch’s mission is to protect the Sierra Nevada by turning development threats into conservation victories.

Inspired by the Sierra’s mountain ridgelines, deep pine forests, rich meadows, and crystal clear waters, we provide innovative strategic leadership to defend the places we love.


Our own expertise includes campaign strategy, land use law, media relations, and grassroots organizing.  We leverage these skills with direct access to the best experts in public interest litigation, habitat conservation, and land-use planning.  And we follow through with integrity and discipline to ensure conservation success.

squaw valley community

Pictured: Keep Squaw True supporters at Tahoe City SnowFest


Our unique brand of strategic leadership secures conservation outcomes for Sierra landscapes.  The lasting result is preservation of irreplaceable Sierra values, permanently protected for generations to come.

Sierra Watch fills a critical need for targeted leadership in Sierra conservation.  Region-wide groups help shape broad policies for land use decision-making; Sierra Watch applies a focused approach to landscape-level development decisions.  Local grassroots groups often lack the full toolkit necessary to wage effective campaigns; Sierra Watch provides proven, disciplined direction for local efforts.  Land trusts can help broker real estate deals and shepherd land into permanent protection; Sierra Watch stands up to irresponsible development projects to protect land and communities.


For 20 years, Sierra Watch has built an impressive track record stopping damaging development proposals, generating funds to acquire lands of high value, and redirecting development to more appropriate areas. 

Our ongoing success is creating a lasting legacy of permanent protection in important places like Martis Valley and Donner Summit and of community involvement in development decision-making in Squaw Valley

Our campaigns develop and inspire local leadership at our project sites and beyond, ensuring that important, lasting land-use decisions are made for the right reasons, with the best information, and with the timeless values of the Sierra at heart.


Everything we do here at Sierra Watch – from legal briefs to bumper stickers – depends on the hundreds of individuals and families who stand with us to protect our favorite mountain places. Become a part of the proud history of conservation in the Sierra by supporting Sierra Watch’s mission:


Support the Sierra Nevada during our 2020 Summer Match!

There’s no better place to get into nature – and get away from it all – than the Sierra.

Let’s keep it that way.  Let’s not lose our great outdoors to indoor waterparks, our Tahoe time to traffic, our night sky to light pollution.

Click here to support Sierra Watch and our work to Save Martis Valley and Keep Squaw True.

And: every contribution – to $50,000 – will be matched; you can double your love for our mountains!

Tahoe traffic, tahoe development, Sierra Watch, Keep Squaw True, Save Martis Valley, Martis Valley

Great Time to Give to the Great Outdoors – Summer Match Announced!

These days we need our mountains more than ever. 

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in the Sierra right now. But, even if you can’t currently access the trails or go jump in the lake, just knowing that they are there, ready and waiting for your next adventure, can provide real solace in challenging times.

Our job here at Sierra Watch is to defend those priceless mountain experiences – for you, your family, and for generations to come.

And you can help.

One of your fellow Sierra Watch supporters will match every contribution, up to a total of $50,000. 

We’re inspired by his commitment and hope you are, too.

Click here to support Sierra Watch and our work to Save Martis Valley and Keep Squaw True:

Tahoe City, Keep Squaw True, Gaffney, Game of GNAR

Protecting the Sierra for future generations!

Keep Squaw True: More than Just a Name

For the most part, when we hear Squaw Valley, we think of the place – the meadows and mountains.  But increasingly now when we hear Squaw Valley, we also hear the name as a derogatory relic of an unjust past.

The term “Squaw” has an undeniably dark history – one of pain, misogyny, and racism.  A tainted transplant from the Algonquian language of Eastern North America, the term was artificially affixed to this western alpine valley and the people who lived here.  It did not come from the language of the Washoe, the native tribe of Squaw/Olympic Valley.  The name was applied when westward-bound travelers arrived and saw only women and children in the meadow as most of the men were away hunting.  The newcomers didn’t ask what the valley was called already; they decreed a word from their own experience.

Since then, the story of the Washoe people is one of tragedy and resilience in the face of conquest and oppression.  (To learn more about that history and the current lives of the Washoe, we recommend: “Washoe Tribal History,” a booklet by the Washoe Cultural Resources Office of the Washoe Native Tribe of Nevada and California, for the US Forest Service).

More than 150 years since the valley was labeled “Squaw”, there is now a growing, shared effort to step back and consider the meaning – the multiple meanings – of the name of one of our favorite places.

It’s an issue Sierra Watch has considered internally, and discussed with the local Washoe tribe, over the last nine years of our work to Keep Squaw True.  The conclusion we’ve reached so far is that we cannot do justice to our mission, to protect the timeless natural resources of the valley and the Tahoe Sierra, without using its widely understood place name.

History, however, is fluid; and times change. 

We understand that, these days, if you refer to the place as Squaw Valley, you are almost certainly not trying to offend or diminish anyone.  But it doesn’t take much historical perspective – or just human empathy – to realize that just because something is not offensive to you doesn’t mean it’s not offensive to someone else.  And that perspective deserves particular respect when it’s held by ancestors or, in this case, by the people who called the place home long before current residents arrived.

Again: our mission and our commitment is to defend the place from reckless development, to ensure that the values that pre-date the first prospectors – and will outlast us all – are not lost to short-term greed.

So, for now, we will continue to refer to the place as Squaw Valley, as we further our commitment to Keep Squaw True.

But we look forward to the day when: not only have we defeated the misguided attempt to destroy the values of the valley with endless highrises and an indoor waterpark but, also, when everyone can talk about the place with the respect and admiration it deserves. 

A respect for all who have come before us in a place that has been protected – kept true – for all those yet to come.

New report: Lake Tahoe further losing its clarity

The UC Davis Environmental Research Center released its annual report on Lake Tahoe’s clarity yesterday, and the news is not good.

Emerald Bay, UC Davis, Keep Squaw True

Tahoe’s Emerald Bay/UC Davis

“Tahoe is suffering a staggering loss of clarity in our own generation,” says Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “And if reckless developers in the Tahoe Sierra get their way, the news will go from bad to worse.”

Each year the center releases the results of its ongoing research.  Lake clarity is measured by dropping a Secchi disk, about the size of a dinner plate, and checking how deep it remains visible to the naked eye. 

According to UC Davis, scientists took 28 individual readings in 2019 and measured a decrease in clarity of nearly eight feet.  The average depth at which the disk could be seen was 62.7 feet.  In 1968, the depth was 102 feet – a stunning loss of clarity over the past five decades.

Lake Tahoe Clarity, Keep Tahoe Blue, Keep Squaw True, UC Davis

Pictured: Secchi Disc depth over time/UC Davis

Researchers point to the impacts of climate change as a growing contributor to the loss of lake clarity. 

Traffic is also an ongoing concern.  Cars in the Tahoe Basin kick up and produce the pollution that feeds nutrients and, in turn, cloud the lake.

Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in Squaw Valley, just outside the Tahoe Basin, would make both worse. 

Alterra’s highrise condos and massive indoor waterpark would pump more than 40,000 tons of carbon into our atmosphere every year.

And traffic generated from the new development would clog Tahoe’s roads, adding more than 1,300 cars – and their pollution – into the basin every day, threatening ongoing efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Clearly, Tahoe deserves better. 

To learn more about Sierra Watch and to stream The Movie to Keep Squaw True, visit

You can read more about the impacts of Squaw development on Tahoe traffic in our report: “Prepare to Stop: Tahoe Traffic and Squaw Valley Development

And to read the new report on lake clarity by UC Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center, visit

The Movie to Keep Squaw True now on YouTube & Smart TV apps!

You’ve seen Tiger King on Netflix. You’ve refreshed your Facebook page 632 times today. Now it’s time to stream The Movie to Keep Squaw True on YouTube!

It’s not quite lions in Oklahoma. 

But it does tell the riveting story of how private equity hucksters are trying to build the world’s tallest indoor waterslide in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley. And how the conservation group Sierra Watch and thousands of volunteers are standing up to protect our mountain values.

Robb Gaffney, Scott Gaffney, Matchstick Productions, Squaw Valley

Pictured: Movie Directors, Robb & Scott Gaffney

If watching on a computer screen isn’t your thing, you can use YouTube to stream the movie on most Smart TV apps, including Apple TV and Roku. 

There’s no better way to kill another hour of quarantine!

Here’s to your health. And here’s to our mountains – waiting patiently for us to return.

KT-22, Squaw Valley, April 2020

Pictured: KT-22 at Squaw Valley after this weekend’s storms

Movie to Keep Squaw True YouTube

Wildlife Returns to Squaw Valley

In the absence of vacationing visitors, reports of unusual wildlife sightings abound in Squaw Valley.

Multiple news sources are reporting that Sierra dolphins are returning to their natural habitat with this photo of them seen frolicking in the indoor waterpark in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

"Squaw Valley Wildlife", "Alterra Mountain Co", "Coronavirus Tahoe"

Pictured: Squaw Valley this week

To get the real facts about Alterra Mountain Co.’s proposed development for Squaw Valley, visit:

Reaching out as the Mountains Abide

We just wanted to reach out and connect with our conservation community.

We’re doing what we can to continue the work of Sierra Watch – Saving Martis Valley and Keeping Squaw True – as much as our isolation allows. But we miss seeing you all in person, whether at our own events, on a chairlift, or out on the trails.

One social distancing tip we can offer: The Movie to Keep Squaw True is streaming online, and you can binge watch as many times as you like!

Squaw Valley, Fresh Snow, Tahoe Coronavirus, Squaw COVID-19

Pictured: Squaw Valley today

In the meantime, our mountains abide, under a blanket of snow.  And will be there for us when we emerge.  

North Tahoe SnowFest’s 4th Annual Wing Eating Contest, benefiting Keep Squaw True

Join Sierra Watch on Sunday, March 1st, for Fat Cat Bar & Grill’s Fourth Annual North Tahoe SnowFest Hot Wing Eating Contest, benefiting our work to Keep Squaw True! Event runs from 3pm to 5pm.

keep squaw true on parade

Pictured: “This is Tahoe’s measurement of the good times people have had,” Robb Gaffney, marching at past SnowFest Parade

So come join us as we watch the fastest eaters from Tahoe and beyond test their mettle against each other and Fat Cat’s spicy wings to become North Tahoe SnowFest 2020’s wing eating champion. We’ll be there raffling off Keep Squaw True gear, as well as a signed copy  the poster for G.N.A.R. The Movie.

Join us from 3 to 5pm! Fat Cat will be offering 30% off Bloody Marys and their signature wings to all spectators.

Sierra Watch staff will also be on hand with campaign updates.


The wing eating competition is open to all amateur eaters 18 years or older who are in good health. Registration is $30 to compete & is currently open — just drop by Fat Cat Bar & Grill in Tahoe City, day-of or in advance to register, open everyday for lunch and dinner!

The Contest
1. Each competitor will start with exactly thirty wings covered with sauce.
2. The contest will last exactly three (3) minutes.
3. The competitors will consume their allotted wings and place the eaten chicken wing bone back into the wing receptacle.
4. If a competitor finishes their allotted thirty wings before the contest is complete, they will be given an additional ten wings to consume.
5. Once the contest is complete, each competitor’s wing receptacle will be taken to be weighed by a Judge.
6. The winner will be determined by the total weight of wing meat eaten, measured by an official contest scale in pounds and ounces by the Executive Judge. In the event of a tie between competitors, there will be a 60 second “run off” to determine the winner.

North Tahoe SnowFest Wing Eating Champion Jeff Stoike

Pictured: Past North Tahoe SnowFest wing eating champion, Jeff Stoike

See you there!